IN THE ‘NICK’

Posted by Admin on Monday, 25th July 2011, 11:39

That six-foot-three of constable and I were on a collision course was both evident and surprising. My conscience was clear, and the library book and local magazine I carried indicated my law-abiding plans for the immediate future.

“Excuse me, will you help us?”

I hesitated.

“An identification parade,” he continued. “It’ll only take ten minutes.”

Reassured that I was not expected to engage in unarmed combat, I assented and crossed the road to the police station where my name was taken, and I was sent upstairs to a room sparsely furnished with a table and a few chairs. Several men, including the inevitable comic who told us ‘they’ had caught up with him at last, were already there. Within a short time we were joined by two more.

A police sergeant, accompanied by another policeman and a detective in civilian clothes, came in. The former, who was in charge of the parade, asked us to form a line in the order in which our names were called. He then admitted the suspect, and from what was said we learnt that he was there on account of an incident (we never knew what) which had taken place two days earlier.

The man was asked if he objected to any member of the parade. There was no objection. He was then allowed to choose his place in the line. He elected to stand between me and the man on my right. His manner, I noted, although not exactly unco-operative, was inclined to be ungracious. Had I been in the same situation, guilty or not, mine too, I imagine, would not have been unduly cordial.

Indoctrinated by Dixon of Dock Green, I was primed for what would happen. The fairness of the procedure, and the meticulous consideration for the rights of the suspected man, were a revelation. He was throughout address as ‘Mr X‘. Courtesy was the keynote from start to finish.

When all was set to the sergeant’s satisfaction, the first witness appeared – a girl of fifteen, slightly gauche, but otherwise not obviously nervous. Having assured the police that she understood why she was there, she was requested to walk past us, and if she recognised the offender to tap his shoulder. Any queries were to be addressed to the sergeant. She gave us a brief look and shook her head.

In the interval between her departure and the arrival of the next witness, the suspect was questioned as to whether he had any complaints regarding the parade, and given a chance to alter his position. No complaint was lodged, and he remained where he stood.

Another girl of about the same age as the first came in, the ritual was repeated, and the result was as before. She recognised no-one.

Once again the man was given the opportunity to protest or move along the line.

The third witness, another teenage girl, impressed me as being more conscientious than her predecessors. Slowly she came down the line, passed the suspected man, and paused … in front of me!

For seconds that seemed like ten times as many minutes I found myself regarded by dark blue eyes that shaded to violet. A look of accusation? I’m not sure. I only remember wishing I had not volunteered, and that every instant I expected to be touched on the shoulder. My head shook an involuntary denial.

At last the girl moved on. No doubt my face expressed great relief. I looked at the plain-clothes man. He was, I thought, giving me a keen scrutiny. Or was it my imagination?

By this time the witness, having admitted her failure to recognise anybody, had disappeared. Mr X was again asked the routine question, and requested to write in our presence a declaration that he had no complaints to make. A minor problem this, but when eventually the paper was signed our job was finished.

For our services we were entitled to receive five shillings. This, I calculated, worked out at roughly ten shillings an hour. Five pounds would have been an inadequate recompense for what I felt when confronted by that third witness.

T. C. Hudson

© T. C. Hudson.
This article may not be reproduced without prior permission of the author.

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